Living Well

Outdoor Entertaining Inspiration

All photos by Victoria Pearson unless otherwise noted.

Nathan Turner, Los Angeles designer and author, is revealing his secrets for effortless alfresco gatherings.

Nathan Turner is known for his lively, lovely interiors, but he is and has always been a passionate entertainer. And he approaches a room or table in the same. 

"In my designs, I experiment with different textures, colors, and patterns to find my style,” says Turner. “It’s the same with entertaining. I love to play with various elements to create a layered table and fun meal for all (including me). The environment is just as important as the food.” 

His book, I Love California: Live, Eat, and Entertain The West Coast Way is brimming with gorgeous outdoor tables that are surprisingly easy. Most of the job is done before you lay a napkin according to the designer. 

"There’s no difference between setting up a party inside or outside,” says Turner. “My same philosophy applies. Good planning and preparation is half the battle. A little organization beforehand means you can enjoy the fun as much as your guests.” 

Below, Nathan shares how to set a magical outdoor table and a beautiful surroundings.

"I love to play with various elements to create a layered table and fun meal for all (including me). The environment is just as important as the food.” 

Easy Arrangements

 

"I always say, when in doubt, go simple. One flower, one arrangement. Or use several varieties of flowers in one color palette (e.g., blush pink to deep raspberry). And remember less is more. A line of bud vases with small blooms arranged down a table has the same punch as a big arrangement. Economical too." 

Photo Courtesy of Matouk.

Create a Sense of Space

 

"Making an outdoor “room” is easier than you think. It can be a seating area created with a blanket and cushions on the grass or a complete outdoor lounge with furniture, rugs, and lighting. No matter how understated or over the top, people will feel more welcome and relaxed."

Spread Out

 

"Just like you would indoors, create stations to keep people moving and to avoid having a crowd at one end of the party. Set up distinct areas for the bar, the buffet, and the dessert table."

Look Around

 

"There may be lots of great natural foliage already on the scene. Branches, greenery, fruit, or succulent plants can be pulled in from the perimeter quickly and easily. Not to mention they’re free!"

Photo by Heidi Geldhauser.

Heatproof Your Centerpiece

 

"If it’s a sweltering day, delicate flowers are only going to wilt and die. Instead, put out something heartier that loves the sun, like lavender, or olive branches."

 

Pass on Plastic

 

"Alfresco dining does not have to equal disposable dinnerware. Use glass and silver for fancier affairs or tinware for a cookout. It just makes it all feel that much more special and considered."

"Use glass and silver for fancier affairs or tinware for a cookout. It just makes it all feel that much more special and considered."

 

Call for Backup

 

"Just like in my bar, I keep extras of everything I might run out of (cooler of ice, extra cutlery) tucked under a table or just out of sight. You’ll spend more time with friends and less time running back and forth from the house."

Make it Pretty

 

"People always ask me, “How did you make things on a table look good?” It’s easier than you think, like with a crudités platter. I like it to look rustic, so I often leave the tops of radishes, carrots, and cherry tomatoes. Mixed juice glasses hold some of the veggies and give the area some height and texture. The small, footed bowl full of tomatoes adds a little polish. No matter what you’re serving, remember to vary the height, color, and texture, and you’ll always end up with a lovely display." 

 

Expect the Unexpected

 

"I keep a basket nearby with umbrellas (for rain or extra hot days), sunscreen, bug spray. for nighttime parties, have extra throws, citronella candles, and flashlights (someone always loses their keys in the grass)."

"No matter what you’re serving, remember to vary the height, color, and texture, and you’ll always end up with a lovely display." 

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